As Mosul is retaken, ShelterBox stands by to help families that survived the epic battle.

Mosul1As nine months of bloody battle end in the routing of Islamic State resistance, aid agencies, including ShelterBox are standing by ready to support families who were trapped in a destroyed city

The long wait is over. Military reports indicate that the final enclaves of IS resistance in Mosul are now in retreat, signalling the end of the largest and longest urban battle anywhere on the earth since World War 2.

It is three years almost to the day that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a Caliphate in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and since last October the UN estimates that 855,000 people have fled the city.

Emergency shelter experts, ShelterBox and its partner aid agencies, most based in the city of Erbil 50 miles from Mosul, have faced huge challenges in responding to one of the world’s most unpredictable sieges – not knowing when people would flee, in what numbers, and in which direction. Displacement camps in the area have long been over capacity, so ShelterBox has tailored much of its aid to be highly portable, meeting the needs of families on the move in this hostile environment.

There are reports that as many as 100,000 people remain in Mosul, no longer held under IS control as human shields, but undoubtedly traumatised from years of warfare, starvation, and living without power, healthcare or fresh water. Those civilians who managed to escape have been rescued, hungry and severely shell-shocked. How many remain huddling in bombed-out buildings in daytime temperatures of 50° daytime is unknown.

Near Mosul, ShelterBox has worked with partners ACTED to:

  • Support 8,000 households / 40,000 individuals since the start of the offensive in October 2016 (5,682 households have been sheltered, additional households received individual items).
  • We have around 3,000 kits standing by now to be distributed when needed.
  • Our aid offer is adjusted with the changing seasons. Iraq is subject to extremes of temperature, over 50° c in summer, and below freezing in winter.

 

A ShelterBox team is in Erbil now making plans to respond to whatever displacement is triggered by the military endgame. Operations Coordinator Sam Hewett says, Although we have prepared for this stage over many months, it is still unpredictable in size and scale. We don’t yet know exactly how many tens of thousands remain in Mosul, what their needs are, and whether they can be met by staying in Mosul. The Old City has suffered extensive damage, with little power or water infrastructure surviving. While relative peace is to be welcomed, we are also concerned about underlying tensions in the region and what they mean for longer-term stability.

ShelterBox and its partners will have to act quickly but cautiously in responding to this latest phase in a very long story.’  

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Meanwhile ShelterBox continues its five-year intervention in Syria, where the city of Raqqa is the focus of a final military offensive. ShelterBox is not able to act here directly with teams on the ground because of the volatile and dangerous security environment, working instead through implementing partners such as Hand in Hand for Syria and ReliefAid. Other partners cannot be named for security reasons.

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ShelterBox has been responding to this conflict since 2012, providing shelter and lifesaving items to households in neighbouring countries Jordan (2012, 2013), Iraq (2013-2017) and Lebanon (2012, 2013) and to families transiting through the Greek islands (2015). In Syria itself a total of 24,404 households have been supported. Now ShelterBox is gearing up for its biggest ever single aid push into Syria. Details of locations and routes cannot be given because ShelterBox must do all it can to protect its people and its partners.

In 2016 across Iraq and Syria ShelterBox aid reached an estimated 230,000 people.

You can help those displaced b y conflict by donating here: PLEASE DONATE

ShelterBox aid arrives in Erbil ahead of anticipated exodus from Mosul

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ShelterBox has now established a pipeline of aid that will see thousands of tents waiting to help families fleeing war in Mosul. Now the anxious wait begins, for the trickle of escapees that may turn into a flood.

International disaster relief agency, ShelterBox has today seen its first consignment of emergency tents arrive in the city of Erbil, just 50 miles from Mosul. Thousands of family relief tents will be pre-positioned close to expected distribution points, anticipating the needs of those escaping the city as fighting intensifies.

ShelterBox’s Rachel Harvey says, ‘The first 500 ShelterBox tents have arrived, another 1,500 are expected in coming days, with more to follow. We are expecting this military offensive to last several weeks, if not months. But we don’t know how many civilians will be able to escape Mosul City or when. So we are working with partners preparing aid in order to react quickly as events unfold.’  

Pallets fo ShelterBox relief tents arrive in Erbil

Pallets fo ShelterBox relief tents arrive in Erbil

In addition to thousands of tents – up to 6,000 are currently committed – ShelterBox has also been working with in-country partner, Paris-based ACTED, to prepare 600 basic kits of essential items such as water carriers, blankets, cooking pots and solar lights for use in camps. In a later phase 1,000 households displaced to Ninewa and Erbil Governates will receive similar kits along with robust tarpaulins and fixings to build emergency shelters. These kits will be for families on the move, expected to be outside the already over-subscribed displacement camps.

ACTED has secure warehouses where their logistics teams can store thousands of tents and kits. The ShelterBox tents arriving now are intended for use in ‘emergency camp’ settings – when the main camps are full or while they wait for those camps to be ready.

In whichever directions people flee Mosul, they will face exhausting journeys by foot across a hostile desert landscape. The longer fighting continues over coming weeks, the greater the chances of stormy weather and sub-zero night temperatures. Portable aid to shelter families on the move will be essential.

Rachel adds, ‘Some people have been displaced in the last couple of days as territory is reclaimed by coalition forces. But the majority of people in Mosul city remain trapped.’ No-one knows the actual number of civilians who have lived here under ISIL rule for the last two years, but it is estimated to be over a million, meaning hundreds of thousands may move suddenly into the desert if escape routes open up as a result of military action.   

Camps established by the United Nations are likely to be used first, and others are still being prepared. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that intensive efforts are being made to create much needed shelter capacity and to get infrastructure in place for emergency food distribution, water, sanitation, hygiene needs and healthcare.

But it is expected that camps will not be able to meet the need if and when very large numbers begin fleeing the conflict.

ShelterBox has planned ahead over months with ACTED, and has partners at work on the Syrian side of the border, including New Zealand based ReliefAid. Rachel says, ‘Good coordination will be key to the success of the humanitarian effort.’ 

THE LONG-PLANNED MILITARY ASSAULT ON MOSUL CITY IN IRAQ COULD CAUSE AS MANY AS A MILLION ‘EXHAUSTED AND TRAUMATISED’ PEOPLE TO FLEE

image of Mosul city

© Reuters

 

Fallujah fell in June. Now Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, is the focus of an international coalition seeking to push ISIL out of Iraq. Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi Prime Minister, announced the start of the offensive on state television on 17 October. And Mosul won’t be surrendered easily – it has great strategic and symbolic importance. It was here that ISIL proclaimed a caliphate two years ago.

Long-term partners French ACTED and ShelterBox have teams in the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, just 53 miles from Mosul. They have been working for weeks to get aid supplies ready so they can respond quickly as the battle unfolds. Tens of thousands of people have already been displaced from Mosul and surrounding areas since March. The working assumption is that as the assault progresses numbers will rise rapidly.

Contingency planning in war zones is never easy. But aid agencies in Iraq are grappling with several unknowns. For example, it’s unclear how many people remain in Mosul – some estimates put the figure as high as 1.5 million. Nor do aid agencies know how long the military operation will last, how many people will flee, and in which directions. Planning for how much aid will be needed, and where, is a matter of instinct and assumption.

Existing camps are already near or beyond capacity so other possible sites are currently being readied.  But demand will almost certainly outstrip supply, meaning many families could be forced to seek shelter outside managed camps in a barren and inhospitable landscape at a time of year given to storms and freezing overnight temperatures.

ShelterBox’s Rachel Harvey in Erbil says, ‘The aim is to get aid to displaced families as quickly as possible. So we are prepositioning stock close to places where we think they might arrive. They are likely to be exhausted and traumatised by their recent experiences. Giving people shelter and essential items such as a solar lamp, blankets and a water carrier will allow them a degree of dignity and security to rest and recover.

But the over-riding feeling is that the numbers and the need will be overwhelming, that the capacity of the combined international assistance will not be enough. The UN estimates that only 54% of the necessary aid funding is in place.

Earlier this year ShelterBox and ACTED made half-finished houses weatherproof in the village of Seje for 2,000 people who had fled the terror of Mount Sinjar two years ago. And ShelterBox has recently committed 3,000 tents for the region, and has a further 3,000 on standby. The first shipment left its Cornwall warehouse last week. ShelterBox is also working with ACTED to make improvements in displacement camps, and has been sourcing and storing portable kits that will allow families on the move to create their own rudimentary shelters.

ShelterBox is asking its donors to dig deep to provide over £1.75 million more to allow this vital work to continue.

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Trying To Ease Suffering In Syria And Iraq Kurdistan

IRAQ KURDISTAN. AUGUST 2013. ShelterBox has been helping Syrian refugees in Iraq Kurdistan for over two years. (Simon Clarke/ShelterBox)

IRAQ KURDISTAN. AUGUST 2013. ShelterBox has been helping Syrian refugees in Iraq Kurdistan for over two years. (Simon Clarke/ShelterBox)

ShelterBox is striving to help families who have been forced from their homes due to conflict but remain within the borders of their own countries in Syria and Iraq.   
These internally displaced persons (IDPs) are just some of the 33.3 million that the United Nations estimates to be the IDP global population in their latest report.
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in northern Iraq. Reports state that fighting between militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and pro-government forces are driving hundreds of thousands of families from their homes, particularly in Mosul, to seek safety and shelter in Iraq Kurdistan’s peaceful cities of Erbil and Duhok.
ShelterBox has a team in Iraq Kurdistan meeting with partner aid agencies to see how it can support the humanitarian response, and shelter IDPs.
‘Families will be made to uproot again’
‘The IDP situation here is fluid,’ said one of ShelterBox’s operations coordinators currently in the country.  ‘Some families have already returned to Mosul but the fighting is expected to continue, which would increase the number of people in need in the days and weeks to come.
‘Coordination with other aid agencies and government bodies is key in this response to avoid duplications in aid efforts and help those in need more effectively and efficiently.’
IRAQ KURDISTAN. SEPTEMBER 2013. Coordination with other aid agencies has been imperative in ShelterBox's responses in Syria and Iraq Kurdistan. Here is ShelterBox response team member Torstein Nielsen checking tents with local Kurdish partner Barzani Charity Foundation. (ShelterBox)

IRAQ KURDISTAN. SEPTEMBER 2013. Coordination with other aid agencies has been imperative in ShelterBox’s responses in Syria and Iraq Kurdistan. Here is ShelterBox response team member Torstein Nielsen checking tents with local Kurdish partner Barzani Charity Foundation. (ShelterBox)

Meanwhile in Syria there are thought to be 6.5 million displaced people alone where ongoing conflict also causes families to be uprooted several times. Men, women and children face violence daily as they remain within an active conflict zone. Access to food, water, shelter and medical care is often limited as it’s hard for aid agencies to reach them.
Two trucks of ShelterBox aid en route to Syria
However ShelterBox has been providing vital aid to Syrian IDPs for over two years now by working with partner humanitarian organisations that already have a presence in the country.
‘We have just sent two more trucks of ShelterBox aid that will be delivered to IDPs in Syria by our long-term partner charity Hand in Hand for Syria,’ said ShelterBox operations coordinator Sam Hewett. ‘Tents are en route now along with Shelter Repair Kits, mosquito nets, water filters and carriers, blankets, groundsheets, SchoolBoxes and solar lamps.’
‘At first glance this UN report seems to describe a hopeless situation, with conflict on the rise globally, and numbers of refugees at a record high,’ said ShelterBox CEO Alison Wallace. ‘But here, at ShelterBox, our outlook is hopeful because we have the means and experience to help provide families with shelter and essential equipment.
‘The numbers may be daunting, but that positive outlook reflects the attitude of our supporters, who give so generously because they are moved by the plight of these families on the run. ShelterBox is dedicated to doing all it can, wherever it can, to ease the suffering of those fleeing conflict.’
Thank you. 

ShelterBox Responds To Civil Unrest In Iraq

RAQ KURDISTAN. AUGUST 2013. Syrian refugees gather at camps in Iraq Kurdistan (Hunter Tanous/ShelterBox).

RAQ KURDISTAN. AUGUST 2013. Syrian refugees gather at camps in Iraq Kurdistan (Hunter Tanous/ShelterBox).

 

ShelterBox is liaising with partner aid agencies in Iraq Kurdistan to see how the international disaster relief charity can help people who have been forced to flee their homes as civil unrest spreads across the country.
Violence broke out in the city of Mosul earlier this week, forcing 500,000 people from their homes. The majority have fled further north to Iraq Kurdistan’s main cities of Erbil and Duhok to seek safety and shelter.
ShelterBox has been working in the region over the past few years helping Syrian refugee families, providing them with shelter and other vital aid. The charity’s operations department is in contact with its partner humanitarian organisations in the area.
‘We have been looking into the situation since the civil unrest began a few days ago,’ said ShelterBox operations manager Alf Evans. ‘We are getting updates from in country partner aid agencies who we’ve worked with before that include the latest figures of those displaced and where they are as well as the latest developments of what is a very fluid situation. We are waiting for a clearer picture to see how and if we can assist the displaced families, as many are staying in schools and with friends and relatives.’
You can find out more about Kurdistan here.
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